CHICAGO WOLVES (9-12-1-0) AT ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (9-8-0-1)
MUCKBRO GOES FOR FOUR
Chicago Wolves veteran Curtis McKenzie has been one of the American Hockey League’s finest and most productive forwards since launching his professional career with the Texas Stars on April 6, 2013.
In 316 regular-season games, McKenzie owns 110 goals and 150 assists. In 73 postseason games, McKenzie has racked up 24 goals and 29 assists while reaching three Calder Cup Finals in six seasons.
Because McKenzie — known as @muckbro16 on Twitter — has been so productive, it’s surprising to discover that his four-point outburst in Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over Grand Rapids at Allstate Arena marked just the third four-point effort of his career (he also posted a +4 plus/minus rating Wednesday).
Prior to delivering two goals and two assists Wednesday night, McKenzie notched four assists for Texas on Jan. 17, 2014, at Charlotte and cranked out 3 goals and 2 assists for Texas on Nov. 8, 2017, at San Diego.
“It was nice to see pucks go in the net,” McKenzie told the Chicago Sun-Times after the game. “Still probably need to create a little more offense – we only had 22 shots again – but we were getting better-quality looks today.”
ZYKOV ADDS MORE OFFENSE
The Wolves received forwards Brandon Pirri and Nicolas Roy on loan from the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights prior to the Wolves’ game at Iowa on Nov. 17. While neither Pirri nor Roy made it to Des Moines in time for the game, their additions triggered something for Chicago’s offense.
Starting with that 4-3 win at Iowa, the Wolves have averaged 3.0 goals during their five games with Pirri and Roy on the roster. Considering the Wolves averaged 2.3 goals during their 17 games without the duo, it’s a serious improvement.
The Wolves’ offense received another positive jolt Thursday when left wing Valentin Zykov was assigned to the team by Vegas. In 2017-18, Zykov scored 33 goals for the Charlotte Checkers to lead the AHL. He owns 58 goals and 46 assists in 180 AHL games for the Checkers and the Ontario Reign.
The 24-year-old Zykov appeared in seven games for Vegas this season and contributed two assists. The St. Petersburg, Russia, native has 47 games, six goals, nine assists and six penalty minutes on his NHL career ledger.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Twelve years ago today, forward Brett Sterling registered a hat trick to lead the Wolves to a 4-3 overtime victory over the Peoria Rivermen at Allstate Arena.
Sterling produced five hat tricks during his years with the Wolves. It’s an indication of how long Sterling remained a prime-time scorer that he posted his first Wolves hat trick (Nov. 22, 2006) and his last Wolves hat trick (Jan. 11, 2013) more than six years apart.
The only Wolves player with a wider split between his first and last hat trick is, of course, Steve Maltais. He earned the first hat trick in franchise history on Nov. 23, 1994, and his last on Feb. 21, 2004.
last two games
- Veteran forward Curtis McKenzie produced two goals, two assists and a +4 plus-minus rating as the Wolves led from start to finish at Allstate Arena.
- Forward Tye McGinn and defensemen Jimmy Schuldt and Jaycob Megna scored goals while center Nicolas Roy contributed two assists.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 27 saves to earn the win.
- The Wolves held the Monsters without a shot for the first 10 minutes and without a goal for the first 29 minutes, but the Monsters took home the win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
- Cleveland goaltender Veini Vehvilainen earned first-star honors with his 16-save shutout while former Wolves forward Stefan Matteau assisted on the first two goals for second-star status.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks rejected 22 shots.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Who ranks No. 1 in the American Hockey League in assists and tied for first in points? Why, it’s 20-year-old Wolves rookie Lucas Elvenes, who owns 6 goals and 19 assists in 22 games. Elvenes has held the assists lead virtually all season, but he has been trading the points lead with Grand Rapids veteran forward Chris Terry (10 goals, 15 assists in 21 games). Elvenes regained the top spot with two assists on Nov. 19 against San Antonio — his fifth game with at least two helpers. He has earned 10 of his assists on the power play, which ranks second to San Antonio defenseman Derrick Pouliot’s 12 assists.
4: The Wolves and the Rockford IceHogs have played 170 regular-season games since meeting for the first time on Oct. 19, 2007. In all that time, neither team has ever strung together more than four consecutive wins. However, the IceHogs enter tonight’s Illinois Lottery Cup clash having won all four meetings between the teams this season. The Wolves need to win six of their final eight games with Rockford in order to claim the Illinois Lottery Cup for the fourth year in a row.
5.59: The Wolves are averaging 5.59 fewer shots per game than their opponents this season. Chicago ranks last among the 31 AHL teams in shots for (26.05 per game) and tied for 24th in shots allowed (31.64 per game). That’s not the widest differential in the AHL as the Ontario Reign sit at minus-9.76 per game. Moreover, outshooting opponents is not a prerequisite for success. Last year’s Wolves squad won the Central Division title and went all the way to the Calder Cup Finals while getting outshot by a total of 40 shots over the course of the regular season. This season, the Wolves are 0-4-0-0 when outshooting their opponent and 8-8-1-0 when getting outshot — as was the case in Wednesday night’s win over Grand Rapids.
7; When the Wolves captured the Central Division title last April, they became the seventh organization in the American Hockey League’s 83-year history to win back-to-back-to-back division crowns. They joined the company of Toronto (2012-14), Rochester (1999-2001), Philadelphia (1997-99), Hershey (1967-69), Quebec (1964-66) and Springfield (1960-62). If the Wolves win the Central Division this year, they’ll become the first AHL franchise to win four straight titles.
16: The Wolves have played 16 consecutive games without needing overtime, which feels like an extraordinarily long run because the Wolves never went more than eight games last season without needing overtime. But a look at Wolves history indicates this year’s team has more non-overtime work to do in order to set the franchise mark. In 2007-08, John Anderson’s squad played 20 regulation-only games in a row (Dec. 28 to Feb. 13) on their way to the Calder Cup championship. Four seasons later, nearly to the day, Craig MacTavish’s team went 20 games without needing overtime from Dec. 28, 2011 to Feb. 11, 2012.
1988: The Wolves boast three players whose fathers were selected in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. Jake Leschyshyn’s father, Curtis, went No. 3 overall to the Quebec Nordiques. Lucas Elvenes’ father, Stefan, went in the fourth round (No. 71 overall) to the Chicago Blackhawks. Jake Bischoff’s father, Grant, went at the start of the 11th round (No. 211 overall) to the Minnesota North Stars. Other intriguing Wolves-related picks in that draft: Longtime general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was picked No. 16 overall by the New York Islanders. Ted Crowley, who scored the first goal in Wolves history on Oct. 1, 1994, went in the fourth round — one pick after Tony Amonte and two before Elvenes. Mike Rosati, who serves as the Vegas Golden Knights’ goaltending development coach and works with the Wolves goalies, was picked in the seventh round by the New York Rangers.